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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Been Here Before

Okay, so I have tried blogging before.  What brings me back?  Writing. It's what you do with a blog.

I've liked writing since High School.  I wasn't very good at it, but I did seem to have some kind of creative spark.  I ended up in Ms. Moore's writing lab to get better at writing (I'm under no illusion, it was kids for who needed help with writing).  I used the experience to unleash the playful side of my writing.  Then I went off to college, graduate school, work, etc.  I lost touch with my love of writing.  I have occasionally kept a journal, posted online and blogged, without focus.

In the interim, I've used my spark for something.  I've spent the last 14 years doing improv and occasionally sketch comedy.  Improv is a wonderfully artistic craft that allows you to exercise your creative juices and personal demons all at once.  It allows you to be around wonderfully creative people and has the upside of instant feedback when done in front of an audience.   The downside, much of what you do on the improv stage only lives on in the memories of the other performers and the audience.

Writing has more of an air of permanence.  Sure in this digital age things can be deleted with great speed. However, they can be backed up, disseminated, and posted worldwide with that same speed.  I like that.  So I am going to try my hand at it, again.  Hopefully some of my spark will come through.

Oh and by the way, I'm working on a book.  Currently, it's tentatively titled "Our Friends and Neighbors".  It's about our first contact with aliens.  I'll journal some of my struggles and joys with the book here.  I'd love feedback, so hope you enjoy this enough to circle back and comment.

Here is a sample of my writing from the book.  It's from a prelude I am most likely not going to use, but I liked it enough to share.

***

The Earth is exactly where it has always been, that is in constant motion. Like most other orbiting objects in space it makes its rounds and moves with the other objects in its system based on the laws of physics.  Small shifts and outside actors have little effect on the Earth.  Since the Earth’s beginning, as a pile of rocks that resolved into a planet, it has stayed in roughly the same orbit around its sun and isn’t planning on going anywhere soon.  This latter fact hasn’t been confirmed with the planet itself and is actually an assumption.  Someone should ask before the Earth changes its mind and goes somewhere else.

            Recently a species has emerged that should be asking that very question. It instead chooses to be in constant motion on the surface of the Earth.  They call themselves “Humans”.  Or at least the English speaking ones do.  Like their home, the Earth, they make their rounds and move with other human objects in their system based on the laws of… Physics? Sociology? Psychology? Biology?  To be quite honest, even they would admit they aren’t always sure why they do what they do. Very serious minded scientists would assure you that at the base of all things, human or otherwise, are very specific and unchangeable laws at work.  One should also point out that these same scientists justify their existence based on faith that these laws can be discovered and understood by those that practice their less than arcane art. 

            These constantly moving humans have in more recent years discovered newer and more interesting ways of communicating with each other.  In the early days they were connected in small groups of friends, families and communities. Most of their communications seemed to be centered on the consumption of resources.  What they killed, ate or made into a poncho were the topics of the day.  At first, humans contented themselves to spreading communication via oral tradition or more precisely, gossip.  Modern man would label this as “cave gossip”, since the originators of oral tradition lived in caves. Back then they were unaware of their context, so it was just gossip.
  
A few of these cave dwellers took it upon themselves to post this gossip onto the walls of the caves in which they lived.  This was the beginning of visual communication. One such dweller was a guy known simply as Mr. Grok.  The true size of the buffalo he killed, at least according to Mrs. Grok, has been greatly exaggerated.  She also credits Mr. Grok with inventing FaceRock (a craze with cave people for a few years), but she also says that he was drunk and trying to say “Rock Face” but failed.

            Humans then turned to spreading news of their consumption of resources via fire.  Fire, in and of itself, is consumption. The fire communication method was able to engage senses other than those engaged by simple oral based information.  The bright glow of a hot fire told the neighbors “Hey we have fire” and “We have wood to burn, so suck it other cave people!” Not exactly nightly news for modern humans, but for some, especially those who were without fire on a cold night, this was a huge smack in the face.
 
In a giant leap forward in fire communications, which was also credited to Mr. Grok by Mr. Grok, was the sending of the message “Hey, we have bacon”.  Mr. Grok can actually not take credit for the communication, but he can take credit for the discovery that the message had been sent.  At the next day’s hunt, Mr. Thraincore “the Grand and Smelly” asked “Hey, did I smell you had bacon last night?” to which Mr. Grok replied “Yes, Yes we did, Thraincore ‘the Grand and Smelly’.  I will send the smell your way the next time we have bacon”.  That very night, Mr. Grok, as he slid the bacon onto the cooking log, announced to Mrs. Grok “I’m making a bacon ‘log entry’ for Thraincore ‘the Grand and Smelly’”.  He then added glibly “I hope he gets the message we are having more bacon.”  Thraincore “the Grand and Smelly” did get the message and came over and took his fire, wife and the bacon.  Cavemen worked that way.

Since then, mankind has experimented with many other forms of communication.  Many documented their conspicuous consumption by using the rocks of the Earth as their place of record.  Many pyramids and other public buildings were carved with messages for mankind to consume.   However, buildings turned out not to be as portable as the authors would have liked, so mobile rock tablets were invented to make written communication easier to transport.  Those turned out to be fairly cumbersome too.  Mankind then experimented with various types of scrolls, bound collections of paper (known as books) and chalk before humans implemented something called “the pad”.  “The pad” was a loosely bound collection of paper that could stay together or be torn off a sheet at a time and distributed as necessary.  Many humans thought this was pretty keen and liked using “the pad”.  They would even use “the pad” to jot notes to others about how great their pad was and then send them those notes by making another human being carry that note to the person they wanted to receive that comment or idea.
 
            Eventually all these slower methods of communication became too much and involved too much human to human interaction, which at the time wasn’t always pleasant. This was especially true for the serious scientists, so they looked into faster, less direct delivery methods.  Next they sent sounds and pictures relatively small distances using radio waves. The hitch was that these signals were available to anyone with a device to decode the message.  This wildly unsecure delivery method had many commercial uses. Humans explored this potential for decades.

One type of commercial device for publically decoding these signals was called the “idiot box”.   Female humans mostly used this terminology to comment on the main users of these “idiot boxes”, their “idiot husbands”. As communications clarity became important, cables were added and people stayed at home to receive these important communications and other messages from the message sponsors.  Some communications were even funded by grants from “The Chubb Group”, who apparently liked having people in their homes to receive messages on the “idiot box”.

            It was at this point that serious scientists, based on exploring their faith in science, began to need to communicate specific information to each other in a targeted fashion.  They developed a method of sharing knowledge called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network).  This was quickly confused with the AARP for the elderly and it was quickly determined that the elderly are not as interesting as email. To get away from this older image, the whole thing was quickly converted to commercial venture. Humans took to using it to send email and weird jokes that only some of the people got.  Large pieces of this system used wires and limited people to places with wires. End result was that they and other people could now see a lot of pornography in places where they lived.

            Eventually humans tired of some of the email and pornography.  They started being curious about each other again in very specific and non-sexual ways.  Mankind’s need to stay connected with one another lead to an explosion of social network activities on a later version of the ARPANET (called the Internet).  Social networks returned humans to tablet based communications and some guys in California even reinvented “the pad”.  They would eventually use the reinvented “the pad” to jot notes to others about how great their pad was or that they were sending notes via “the pad”.  To use the most resources and to wirelessly communicate wherever they wanted, humans used these tablet based social networks to monitor, update and interact with each other practically 24 hours a day.  Random thoughts, articles, pictures and videos would make the human experience shareable, consumable and nearly totally ubiquitous.

Smells are not yet a feature on the internet. However this lack of Internet based smells (or Smellnet) does not stop people from sharing pictures of food on the web, especially pictures of bacon and bacon cheeseburgers. People are now again connected in groups of friends, families and communities.  Humans now share with each other, even if they don’t like each other that much.  Even descendants of Mr. Grok and Mr. Thraincore “the Grand and Smelly” have friended each other on one of the more popular networks (it’s not FaceRock).

A lot of the popularity of social networks is credited to the need to not feel alone in the universe.  Humans rarely acknowledged that it was a virtual impossibility they were alone in the vastness of space and so there was much needless debate.  The debate was especially heated amongst the serious and the non-serious scientists. It was when mankind’s need to consume the shared experience through social networking became nearly universal that they discovered that they were not alone in the universe. This is that story.

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